Saturday, February 16, 2013

Stretching

I was pedaling away on an exercise bicycle this last week when one of the fairly serious body-building types stopped to chat. He hadn’t been aware that I did a cardio workout before getting serious with my daily routines - but he had been told by his doctor that he needed to start doing more cardio. After talking about cardio for a bit I asked him how his shoulder was doing - he had managed to strain it pretty badly 4 months ago and I knew he had to take a couple of months off to let it recover. He indicated that he was starting to ramp back up on weight, but that he needed to learn more about stretching to help protect his joints and muscles.

Hmmm. Seriously built bodybuilder - coming to realize how important stretching is.

Then I read an article about Doctor Oz in Prevention (10/2012 - ok, I am a bit behind in some of the magazines). Habit number 1 that Dr. Oz lists for those over 50 who want to live well is to stretch first thing in the morning. “Stretching for 10 minutes every morning has a variety of benefits, including decreasing risk of heart attack, alleviating stress, and improving circulation”.

In my own world I have gone from fighting chronic back and shoulder pain to being amazingly pain free. Sure, once in a while I will strain a muscle - gads, the 20 year olds who work out with me strain more muscles than I do, so I expect some challenges in this area. But, with my daily stretching I recover very quickly. And just don’t have the chronic soreness that I experienced when I was 10 or 15 years younger and didn’t stretch every day.

I have discussed my routine before - and shot pictures, and even a video for my site. Check out stretches and while you’re at it, check out my latest push-ups - Old Man Pushups Talk about enough to give one a sore back???

My daily routine is pretty simple. I spend 5 to 10 minutes first thing in the morning doing some basic stretches. Then, during my workout, I spend 25 to 30 minutes stretching as soon as I get my cardio out of the way. Anymore I have 3 or 4 older folk joining me many days to go through my stretch routine.

I recently talked to them about what they are getting out of stretching. Two of them had been fighting joint pain. When they are religious about stretching with me they can quit taking the pain meds they have to otherwise rely on. Initially they found they could cut back, but after a couple of months - they were able to quit.

One of them talked about how much better he was able to walk and maintain his balance.

I don’t have to tell you how good it made me feel knowing I was helping these people. It also reinforced what I read about the benefits of stretching.

Brings to mind another recent gym experience. We were working out on gymnasts rings - doing things like stretching out horizontally, toes on a basketball, hands in the rings, and basically doing horizontal jumping jacks - ok, not jumping, but holding ourselves off the floor with the rings and moving our hands and arms from straight over our heads to straight out to the sides. Ok, like making snow angels - ‘cept we were facing the floor and holding ourselves up with the rings.

This puts massive strain on your core. When I was finished with my set I was watching one of the group work at the same move, and one of the young guys doing squats came up behind me - clamped his hands on my shoulders (which pretty much surprised the heck out of me) and told me he couldn’t believe what he had just seen me do.

I really can’t stress enough how important stretching is - both in protecting oneself from that “wrong move” that always puts your back out, to helping prevent muscle pain from day to day living.

Stretching, building your core strength, and improving your balance - my recipe for helping your body age gracefully!

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